U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk announced this week that the U.S.-Korea free trade agreement (FTA) will take effect on March 15, after the details of implementing the trade agreement were hammered out recently. On March 15, nearly two-thirds of U.S. agricultural products, as  well as approximately 80 percent of U.S. exports of industrial products to Korea, will become duty free.   U.S. poultry exports receive favorable treatment in the trade pact with a multi-year arrangement that  improves prospects for U.S. poultry exports to Korea.

Even with the effective date set, controversy still exists over the agreement.  Korean parliamentary elections are scheduled for April 11 and the presidential election is in December.  All 299 legislative seats are up for consideration, and as the Korean president is only allowed to serve one, five-year term, a new president is guaranteed.  Members of the Democratic United Party in Korea are criticizing the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement and vowing to repeal , or revise, parts of the agreement.

Many feel re-opening the U.S.-Korea FTA is unlikely, but opposition by some in Korea over the pact may have ramifications for U.S. agriculture.  “I would just remind people…it’s difficult to get the other country to want to renegotiate,”  Mike Brown, National Chicken Council president, said during a roundtable discussion at the National Meat Association’s annual convention in Tucson last week.  The controversy over the trade pact is a “good indication of the challenges we’d have in trade overall from an ag standpoint,” Brown said.

The USDA Agricultural Trade Office (ATO) in Seoul recently launched a Web page to showcase potential opportunities to be created by the trade agreement.  The Foreign Agricultural Service recommends that U.S. agricultural exporters and those interested in expanding sales to international markets visit the page, called What U.S. Exporters Need to Know about the KORUS Agreement, to learn about the agreement, understand new tariff schedules and gain valuable information about the fifth-largest market for U.S. farm products.